Open VLD puts forward growth plan with jobs, defence and the economy at the core

Flemish liberal party Open VLD has unveiled a growth plan to cap the Belgian budget deficit at 3 per cent of GDP by 2029. The plan includes creating 450,000 jobs, ensuring a minimum 500 euros difference between working and non-working and limiting healthcare growth to 1.5 per cent above inflation. Defence expenditure will rise to 2 per cent of GDP by 2029, partly through the privatisation of Belfius, BNP Paribas and Ethias.

The growth plan was discussed on Saturday at the Open VLD Growth Congress. It is a calculated plan "with which we want to bring 'seriousness' into the campaign. We have to go back to the Maastricht standard", said party chair Tom Ongena at a press briefing. "Everyone should now put their cards on the table," prime minister Alexander De Croo said.

The Maastricht standard is a European rule that states that a budget of up to 3 per cent of GDP may go into the red to remain acceptable. The European Commission increases its supervision of countries that exceed this limit.

Next steps

To achieve a deficit of 3 per cent of GDP by 2029, 3.4 billion will be required for next year, rising cumulatively to 7.1 billion in 2026, 13.3 billion in 2027, 18.6 billion in 2028 and 24.7 billion in 2029. Key measures include job creation, tax bracket abolition and barrier removal, focusing on flexi-jobs and STEM training.

The plan also addresses pension reform, healthcare standards and proposes a rational government approach, phasing out subsidies and reducing cabinet sizes.

Investments in security and defence, supported by privatisation, are highlighted, with a Defence Fund financing the increase in defence spending. Open VLD also relies on the migration pact for refugee distribution and proposes faster asylum procedures, aiming to increase shelter places from 35,000 to 25,000.

The conference and proposal have been met with scepticism from MP Sander Loones of Flemish nationalists N-VA, who calls Open VLD "a threat to our prosperity".

"With the new plan, De Croo confirms that everything he said as prime minister of this government is wrong, and much more needs to be done than the lax trajectory that Vivaldi followed," he said. "Vivaldi has not governed, and after the elections, neither will Vivaldi bis. That is precisely why we must choose less Belgium, more Flanders."



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